Great Reads: Letters to the Church

If you’ve met me in person you know I’m never without a book (or 2 or 3). I think reading is the best way to live someone else’s story and experience a new adventure. In 2018 I read over 200 books and learned so many new and interesting things. This year I’m going to read a “Catholic Church Book” every month or so and share the wisdom I glean here with you … so you can either ‘get everything you need from my post and save yourself a few hours of reading’ or ‘get excited about reading it on your own.’ By “Catholic Church Book” I mean, a book that is designed to help parishes grow and thrive! I’ve got a whole bookshelf, but if you have a favorite you think I should read, let me know! I’m always in the market for a new book!

First Disclaimer is that this is not a Catholic book. Francis Chen started the megachurch Cornerstone years ago. He has since left that church to do missionary work and then begin a new movement. I listened to this book on my way to a church meeting and was super inspired. Although he is not Catholic and is not addressing Catholic Churches specifically, I think he addresses a few points that we need to keep in mind.

There is currently a movement in the Catholic Church to look at Protestant megachurches and see what we can learn from them. Why? Simply because in most communities they are attracting our parishioners faster than we can blink twice to say don’t go please. What brings them in? Music, great parking, coffee shops, preaching, etc.

I hear it from my parishes all the time, “Elevation (that’s the megachurch in Charlotte) is taking our parishioners, what can we do to get them back?” Although this is a growing concern, I believe that is the wrong question and the wrong starting point.

In Letters to the Church, Chen asks a few questions. The most significant one for me was “Would Christ recognize your church as His Church, the one he laid out in the Gospels, if He walked in on Sunday?”

Now that’s a question to answer. If the answer is no, then we have a bigger issue than another church grabbing our people.

Chen encourages us to remember that: Everything should lead us back to Jesus, being disciples, sharing the good news, and following His will.

Let’s take a moment and question the whys behind a few common ministries I’ve seen Catholic parishes learn from Protestant megachurches:

Why do you want to serve coffee and donuts? To provide an opportunity for people to get to know one another so they can walk together on their journey of faith; to have someone to catch them when they stumble.

Why do you want to have greeters at every door before Mass? To show everyone who comes to Mass on Sunday that they are welcome in this place and no one goes by unnoticed in the house of the Lord.

Why are you starting small groups? To insure everyone has a community to walk on the journey of faith, a place where they can share their doubts, and someone to talk about how Christ is calling them to a conversion.

Why are you visiting the homes of non-active parishioners? To begin a conversation about faith with them so you know their starting point in the faith.

There are many great things we can learn from the Protestant megachurches in our neighborhoods, particularly regarding hospitality and community building. When adding them to your parish, examine the why behind your new ministry, keeping your eyes on Christ.

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